A Prehearing Conference (PHC) is an opportunity for parties to have a prehearing administrative law judge (PALJ) assist them in resolving or simplifying any workers’ compensation issue before their formal hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ) in the Office of Administrative Courts (OAC).
PALJs can address extensions of time, discovery matters, and evidentiary disputes. Conferences are set at the request of a party, and the judge may order the opposing parties to attend and participate. Upon completion of the PHC, the PALJ will send an order outlining the parties’ agreements and the judge’s determinations.
PALJs also have the authority to rule on written motions. Resolving matters through prehearing conferences and written motions reduces the number of issues that require a formal hearing.
PALJs orders are orders of the Director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation and are binding on the parties, and may be appealed at the OAC. If a party fails to follow the order, the PALJ may order sanctions against that party. The type of sanction depends on the facts of each case.
Settlement Conferences are meetings between opposing parties of a claim where the parties attempt to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of their dispute. They are not fact-finding hearings, and no determination of any issue set for hearing is addressed at a settlement conference. Settlement discussions may take place between the parties, or they may request the assistance of a PALJ. These conferences are voluntary and are scheduled only when all parties agree to participate. Participants typically include injured workers, attorneys, and insurance adjusters.
Uniform Settlement Agreements ("USAs")
Settlement discussions are confidential and cannot be used as evidence in a hearing. The PALJ helps in the exchange of information, examine the merits and weaknesses of the parties’ positions, weigh the risks and costs of litigation, and negotiate a settlement of the issues.
Settlements can be made on single or multiple issues, or they can resolve all issues on a “full and final” basis. Full and final settlements mean all issues are settled and the case is closed upon written approval of the settlement terms by the Director or a PALJ. In some cases, the competency of a claimant arises, where the claimant is a minor or has suffered the loss of mental abilities to manage his or her affairs. In those situations, the parties may need a prehearing conference with a PALJ to determine the competency of the claimant before any settlement can be approved.
At any time before a hearing, the parties may agree to submit any workers' compensation dispute to binding arbitration before a PALJ of their choice. When arbitration is conducted by a PALJ, an award is entered that is binding on both sides and cannot be appealed to a higher court.
Division of Workers' Compensation
Prehearing and Settlement Conference Unit
633 17th Street, Suite 400
Denver, CO 80202
Please email the Prehearing Unit at the above email address any documents you want included for any conferences scheduled.